The term "biodegradable" has been used over the past few years, to describe plastics or packaging that could potentially be metabolized by microorganisms in nature, with complete breakdown to CO2/Methane, water and biomass. However, there is significant confusion and controversy surrounding biodegradable plastics since many suppliers have used the term to loosely describe their material/packaging without specifying the conditions under which the material would degrade in nature. For instance, some plastics (like PLA) will only degrade under industrial composting conditions, while some others (like PHA) can break down under a wider range of conditions and environments (industrial, backyard, marine). Given this widespread confusion and the misuse of the "biodegradable" term, many global government and industry organizations have issued guidelines to restrict or eliminate the unqualified use of biodegradable as a descriptor of plastics or packaging. These include the European Commission guidelines (European Plastics Strategy) and the Federal Trade Commission Green Guides in the US.
In line with such guidelines, Ubuntoo's recommends that companies providing biodegradable materials, products or packaging:
1.Avoid unqualified use of the term "biodegradable" to describe their products
2.Any claim of biodegradability should be accompanied by a description of specific conditions and environments under which the material or product will undergo degradation in nature
3.It is strongly recommended that companies provide globally accepted certifications or testing for various biodegradability claims (such as the BPA certification for industrial composting)
Further in line with the position articulated by the European Commission as well as major CPG companies, Ubuntoo recommends that "biodegradable" plastics should not be considered a solution for littering (or worse a license to litter). Appropriate collection and end-of-life solutions (such as industrial composting or home composting) need to be put into place to avoid biodegradable plastics ending up as litter in the environment.
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Mimica has set the new standard of freshness indication that reduces waste and improves safety. Their first product Mimica Touch is a patented label or cap that turns bumpy when food or drink spoils, based on actual temperature conditions. It provides accurate, real-time indication of the product’s freshness and is the logical advancement from the current printed date system.
Globally, a third of food produced is wasted (FAO, 2015), with 60% of it still safe for consumption. Updating the expiry date system is identified as the most impactful methods of cutting food waste (WRAP) and using innovative technology is integral to this.
By creating accessible, affordable freshness indicators for all types of perishable products, Mimica is creating the next generation of food expiry labelling that reduces food waste and improves safety.
The active side contains a gel which changes consistency and shape, becoming bumpy from smooth. A subtle palpation confirms the same. The label is calibrated such that it mimics the food contents' shelf life all along till consumption. The following advantages have been observed:
More accurate than traditional labels,
Can be easily interpreted by visually impaired people as it is tactile,
Retail food waste will be reduced by 50% and home waste by 60% due to shelf life extension,
Includes a flat site on the tag as control specimen,
Works within the normal logistic temperature range of the food.
However, this label isn't fit for freezing, can't be swapped within heterogeneous food groups as one is specifically calibrated, is costlier than traditional labels.
The company has received several awards for its groundbreaking approach, including: The James Dyson Award, People's Choice Award by FoodBytes, MIT Innovators Under 35 Award, Hawley Award by The Engineer's Trust.
The company is currently developing new prototypes and refining existing ones. The potential has not gone unnoticed as partnerships have emerged with R/GA Accelerator, Unreasonable Impact (created with Barclays) Accelerator, The Good Kitchen, Central Research Laboratory in the UK.
Once launched, the solution will cater to a currently non-existent multi-billion dollar market. FMCG industries that manufacture perishable goods will serve as the primary market.